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Immigration Update

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Liza C. Moore
Foster Swift Agricultural Law Update
May 2013

Immigration reform is a hot-button, important issue. Recently, both the Senate and House have introduced legislation regarding immigration and agriculture. On April 16, 2013, eight Senators introduced comprehensive immigration reform legislation (titled the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744).

One subtitle of the 844-page Senate bill is called the "Agricultural Worker Program." The proposed Agricultural Worker Program has two main components: a "Program for Earned Status Adjustment of Agricultural Workers" (Blue Card Status program) and a "Nonimmigrant Agricultural Visa Program" (Guest Worker program).

Under the proposed Blue Card Status program, after completing a detailed application, paying fees, and passing national security and law enforcement clearances, workers (and their spouses and children) who performed a certain amount of agricultural employment prior to 2012 could obtain "Blue Card" status. After a certain number of years and satisfaction of additional requirements, blue card status could be adjusted to permanent resident status.

The proposed Guest Worker program would allow a nonimmigrant agricultural worker satisfying various requirements to be admitted into the United States for an initial 3-year period, which could potentially be renewed.

The lengthy proposed legislation has many other requirements and programs. The Senate Judiciary Committee held full committee meetings on S.744 on April 19, 22, and 23, and is currently set to consider the bill at its next executive business meeting on May 9, 2013.

On April 26, 2013, House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte introduced a proposed "Agricultural Guestworker Act," H.R. 1773. According to the summary posted on the House Judiciary Committee’s website, the proposed legislation would create an H-2C worker program run by the USDA.

These proposals have received extensive news coverage and will be subject to intense political debate. More information about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings and actions can be located at: www.judiciary.senate.gov. To view all 844 pages of S.744 as introduced on April 16, 2013. View the House Judiciary Chairman’s April 26, 2013 news release about H.R. 1773 (with links to a summary and the bill) (We have identified that the following link is no longer active, and it has been removed)